In 2007, Sunny and Navneet Bhatti were preparing for the arrival of their second child. Everything seemed to go as expected—until Sahib was born. Immediately, it became clear that there were serious issues with Sahib’s health. The family was sent from their local hospital in Surrey to BC Children’s Hospital the very next day.
“We were completely shocked,” Sunny said, thinking back on that time. “Right away, we were venturing into new waters—and we didn’t know how deep they were going to be. It turns out, they were quite deep.”
A battery of tests revealed Sahib had a developmental disorder called DiGeorge syndrome—in which a small piece of chromosome 22 is missing. The condition can cause hundreds of different symptoms in children. For Sahib, it meant severe issues with multiple systems throughout his body, including his lungs, heart, and intestines.
After two weeks at BC Children’s Hospital, Sahib was finally able to go home to his parents and four-year-old sister Saroop. His family was thrilled—but over the next few months, his health continued to worsen. He didn’t have an appetite. He was losing weight. Most of all, his heart issues were becoming more critical. Then, Sahib’s health quickly deteriorated even further—doctors weren’t certain he would survive the weekend. They were given two options.
“We could have a surgery at BC Children’s that weekend that would prolong his life by a few months,” explained Navneet. “Or, the doctors told us about a procedure only offered in California that could fix his heart issues—but it would mean we would have to risk Sahib not surviving the weekend.”
The Bhattis chose the latter. Sahib survived the weekend and was transferred to San Francisco on Tuesday. At just three months old, he had open-heart surgery to fix his pulmonary artery that hadn’t formed properly.
The surgery saved Sahib’s life; however, the family continued to make countless trips to BC Children’s over the years because of complications from his condition. Most of those visits often resulted in stays of up to a week.
In January of 2017, Sahib and his family went to the U.S. for his last open-heart surgery. While it was a success for his heart, the air got into his heart and traveled to his brain during the procedure, which caused multiple strokes. That had several consequences—chief among them, Sahib lost the use of his left arm. “That was devastating for a child who was starting to become independent and do the basics of dressing himself and brushing his teeth,” said Navneet.
After returning to Vancouver, Sahib was referred to an intensive six-week outpatient program at Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children, the hospital’s rehabilitation facility, to regain the skills and strength he had lost from the strokes. There, he worked with a team of physio, occupational, recreational and speech therapists. After just two weeks, the improvement in Sahib was clear to his parents.
“He was able to open up his left hand and wrap his fingers around toys and carry them from one area to another. His coordination and balance also started to improve quickly,” Sunny said.
“When you see progress like that, it really gives you hope,” added Navneet.
Today, Sahib is an energetic, loving 11-year-old who attends school in his local community. While his health has stabilized, he continues to work on issues affecting his balance and coordination. The Bhattis look forward to having a new Sunny Hill facility on the BC Children’s Hospital campus to help Sahib along with his path to recovery.
“When you’re going through challenges, one’s environment is so important to healing,” Sunny said. “It’s incredible to know that these new facilities will have natural light, more space and that the therapies will be more consolidated.”
Thanks to the generosity of the 10th Annual A Night of Miracles donors, sponsors and the South Asian community, the gala raised an incredible $755,000 for the Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children Enhancement Initiative. This funding will support life-changing care for kids like Sahib.